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though he have no wisdom to do himself good, yet he hath policy enough to do us mischief. He lies in ambus behind our lawful comforts and employments; yet, for the generality of men, how supine and careless are they, suspecting no danger? Their souls, like Laila, dwell carelessly, their senses ungarded : O what an easy prize, and conquest, doth the devil make of them!
Indeed, if it were with us as with Adam in innocency, or as it was with Christ in the days of his flesh (who by reason of that overflowing fulness of grace that dwelt in him, the purity of his person, and the hypoftatical union, was secured from the danger of all temptations) the case then were otherwise ; but we have a traitor within, James i. 14, 15. as well as a tempter without: 1 Pet. v. 8. “ Our “ adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he
may devour:” And, like the beasts of the forests, poor souls lie down before him, and become his prey. All the sagacity, wit, policy, and foresight of some men, is fummoned in to serve their bcdies, and secure their fleshly enjoyments.
Lord! how doth the care, wisdom, and vigilance of men in temporal and external things, condemn my carelessness in the deep and dear concernments of my precious soul! what care and labour is there to secure a perishing life, liberty, or treasure! when was I thus folicitous for my soul, though its value be inestimable, and its danger far greater ? Self-preservation is one of the deepest principles in nature. There is not the poorest worm, or fly, but will fhun danger, if it can: yet I am so far from thunning those dangers to which my foul lies continually exposed, that I often run it upon temptations, and voluntarily expose it to its enemies. I fee, Lord how watchful, jealous, and labourious thy people are ; what prayers, tears, and groans, searching of heart, mortification of lusts, guarding of senses; and all accounted too little by them Have not I a soul to save or lose eternally, as well as they? Yet I cannot deny one fleshly luft, nor withtiand one temptation. O how I am convinced and condemned, not only by other's care and vigilance, but my own too, in lesier and lower matters?
AM the ship, whose bills of lading come
To more than man's or angel's art can sum,
Temptations give it chace, 'its grappled fure,
C H A P. VI.
How small a matter turns a ship about
IT is just matter of admiration, to fee fo great a body as a ship is,
and wlien under fail too, before a freth and strong wind, by which it is carried, as the clouds, with marvellous force and speed, yet to be commanded with ease, by so small a thing as the helm is. The scripture takes notice of it as a matter worthy of our consideration. Jam. iii. 4. “Behold also the ships, which though they be
great, and driven of fierce winds; yet they are turned about with “ a small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.” Yea, * Ariftotle himself, that eagle-eyed philofopher, could not give a reason of it, but looked upon it as a very marvellous and wonderful thing.
To the fame use and office has God designed conscience in man, which being rectified and regulated by the word and Spirit of God, is to Iteer and order his whole conversation. Conscience is as the oracle of God, the judge and determiner of our actions, whether they be good or evil ? And it lays the strongest obligation upon the creature to obey its dictates, that is imaginable ; for it binds under the reason and confideration of the most absolute and lovereign will of the great God. So that as often as conscience from the word convinceth us of any fin or duty, it lays such a bond upon us to obey it, as no power under heaven can relax or dispense with. Angels cannot do it, much less man ;
for that would be to exalt themselves above God. Now therefore it is an high and dreadful way of finning, to oppose and rebel against conscience, when it convinces of sin and duty. Conscience sometimes reasons it out with men, and thews them the necessity of changing their way and coutse; arguing it from the clearest and most allowed maxims of right reason, as well as from the indisputable sovereignty of God.
* Aristot. Secund. Mnxarıxwv, C, 5.
As for instance: it convinceth their very reason that things of eternal duration are infinitely to be preferred to all momentary and perishing things, Rom. viii. 18. Heb. xi. 26 and it is our duty to chuse them, and make all secular and temporary concernments to ftand afide, and give place to them. Yet though men be convinced of this, their stubborn will stands out, and will not yield up itself to the conviction.
Further, It argues from this acknowledged truth, that all the de. light and pleasures in this world are but a miserable portion, and that it is the highest folly to adventure an immortal foul for them, Luke ix. 15. Alas! what remembrance is there of them in hell? They are as the waters that pass away. What have they left, of all their mirth and jollity, but a tormenting sting? It convinceth them clearly, also, that in matters of deep concernment it is an high point of wisdom, to apprehend and improve the right seasons and opportunities of them, Prov. X. 5. “ He that gathers in summer is a wise fon.” Ecclef. vii. 5.“ A wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. “ There is a season to every purpose,” Ecclef. iii. 1. viz. a nick of time, an happy juncture, when if a man strikes in, he doth his work cffectually, and with much facility: such seasons conscience convinceth the foul of, and often whispers thus in its ear : Now, foul, ftrike in, close with this motion of the Spirit, and be happy for ever ; thou mayelt never have fuch a gale for heaven any more. Now, though these be allowed maxims of reason, and conscience enforce them strongly on the soul, yet cannot it prevail; the proud, stubborn will rebels, and will not be guided by it. See Eph. ii. 3. Job xxxiv. 37. Isa. xlvi. 12. Ezek. ii. 4. Jer. xliv. 16.
REFLECTION. Ah! Lord, such an heart have I had before thee; thus obstinate, thus rebellious, so uncontroulable by conscience. Many a time hath conscience thus whispered in mine ear, many a time liath it Itood in my way, as the angel did in Balaani's, or the cherubims that kept the way of the tree of life with flaming swords turning every way. Thus hath it stood to oppose me in the way of my lufts. How often hath it calmly debated the case with me alone ? and how sweetly hath it expoftulated with me? How clearly hath it convinced of fin, danger, duty, with strong demonftration? How terrible hath it menaced my foul, and set the point of the threatening at my very breaft? And yet my head-strong affections will not be remanded by it. I have obeyed the voice of every luit and temptation, Tit. iii. 3. but conscience hath loft its authority with me. Ah Lord ! Lord ! what a fad condition am I in, both in respect of fin and mifery ? My sin receives dreadful aggravations, for rebellion and presumption are hereby added to it.
I have violated the strongest bonds that ever were laid upon a creature. If my conscience had not thus convinced and warned, the sin had not been so great and crimson-coloured, Jam. iv. 17. Ah! this is to fin with an high hand, Numb. xv. 30. to come near to the great and unpardonable transgression, Pfalm xix. 13. O how dreadful a way of finning is this, with opened eyes! and as my fin is thus out of measure finful, so my punishment will be out of measure dreadful, if I persist in this rebellion. Lord ! thou hast said, Such shall be beaten with many stripes, Luke xii. 48. yea, Lord, and if ever my conscience, which by rebellion is now grown silent, thould be in judgment awakened in this life ; O! what an hell should I have within me! how would it thunder and roar upon me, and surround me with terrors ?
Thy word assures me, that no length of time can wear out of its memory what I have done, Gen. xlii. 21. no violence or force can suppress it, Mat. xxvii. 4. no greatness of power can stifle it; it will take the mightiest monarch by the throat, Exod. x. 16. Dan. v. 6. no music, pleasures, or delights, can charm it, Job xx. 22. science! thou art the sweetest friend, or the dreadfulest enemy in the world ; thy confolations are incomparably sweet, and thy terrors insupportable. Ah! let me stand it out no longer against conscience; the very ship in which I fail is a confutation of my madness, that rulhes greedily into sin against both reafon and conscience, and will not be commanded by it; furely, O my soul, this will be bitterness in the end.
SHIP of greatest burthen will obey
The rudder; he that fits at helm, may tway
Thro' many fears and dangers feamen run,
E have an elegant and lively description of their fears and
dangers, Psal. cvii. 25, 26, 27. “ He commandeth and raiseth the stormy winds, which lift up the 'waves thereof: " they mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths; their « foul is melted because of trouble; they reel to and fro, they ftag
ger like a drunken man ; they are at their wits end.” Or, as it is in the Hebrew, “ All wisdom is swallowed up.” Suitable to which is that of the poet*.
« The pilot knows not what to chuse, or flee;
« Art stands amaz’d in ambiguity." * () what a strange and miraculous deliverance have many seamen had ? How often have they yielded themselves for dead men, and verily thought the next fea would have swallowed them up? How carnestly then do they cry for mercy? and, like the Cymbrians, can pray in a storm, though they regard it not at other times, Psal. cvii. 28. Jonah i. 5, 6.
APPLICATION. These dreadful storms do at once discover to us the mighty power of God in raising them, and the abundant goodness of God in preserving poor creatures in them.
1. The power of God is graciously manifested in raising them; the wind is one of the Lord's wonders, Pfal. cvii. 24, 25. “ They " that go down to the sea, see the works of the Lord, and his (won« ders) in the deep; for he commandeth and raiseth the stormy « winds." Yea, ver. 18. God appropriates it as a peculiar work of
« He causeth his [wind to blow]." Hence he is said in scripture “ to bring them forth out of his treasury,” Psal. cxxxvii. 7. there they are locked up, and reserved ; not a gust can break forth till he command and call for it to go and execute his pleasure: Yea, he is said
to “hold them in his fift,” Prov. XXX. 4. What is more incapable . of holding than the wind ? yet God holds it; although it be a strong
and terrible creature, he controls and rules it: yea, the scripture sets forth God," as riding upon the wings of the wind,” Psal. xviii. 10. It is a borrowed speech from the manner of men, who when they would shew their pomp and, greatness, ride upon some stately
* Refler in incerto eft : nec quid fugiatve petatve Invenit ; ambiguis ars ftupet ipfa malis. Ovid.